Happy holidays!

I look back on 2010 with mixed feelings.

Business has been very good, surpassing my expectations (in spite of the economy). I’m booked solid for 2011 already, and that’s something to be excited about. And when business is good, I’m happy because I love what I do for a living and because my clients are happy. Thank you to my many valued clients for allowing me to be part of your business.

Other aspects of life, however, added some challenges to the year: The passing of a loved one, a big flood that required me to move my office, an absurdly busy summer, a sports injury, and some stalled home remodelling… all of these took a toll.

So it was a year of good and bad. But I’m still standing and I’m still doing what I love to do. And I am so excited about what’s in store for 2011. Right now, I’m putting the pieces in place for some new initiatives as well as a (long-awaited) book. Stay tuned!

Have a safe and happy holiday and here’s to a prosperous New Year!

Just read: ‘Seven Strategy Questions: A Simple Approach for Better Execution’ at Henry Alzamora’s blog

At Henry Alzamora’s blog, writer Robert Simons offers up seven questions that businesses need to ask themselves to focus their efforts and execute more effectively.

I’ll list the questions here, but go over to Alzamora’s blog for more details:

  1. Who is your primary customer?
  2. How Do Your Core Values Prioritize Shareholders, Employees, and Customers?
  3. What Critical Performance Variables Are You Tracking?
  4. What Strategic Boundaries Have You Set?
  5. How Are You Generating Creative Tension?
  6. How Committed Are Your Employees to Helping Each Other?
  7. What Strategic Uncertainties Keep You Awake at Night?

Read the questions and further explanations at: Seven Strategy Questions: A Simple Approach for Better Execution.

Lists like these are extremely valuable to help you focus and cut through the clutter of the things that vie for your attention. Take the time today to start answering these questions in your own business.

A sales funnel lesson your business can learn… from a non-profit organization

Tonight I was cleaning up after supper and there was a knock at my door. The guy at the door assured me that he wasn’t selling anything or trying to change my religion, and he introduced himself as a representative of one of those charities helps people sponsor impoverished children. (You know the charities I mean. I don’t want to name the specific charity here but they are a decent charity and you’ve probably heard of them, and my wife and I have supported them in the past).

He then gave me a little presentation about the work the charity was doing. Although I didn’t sponsor a child with this rep’s charity, I was really impressed with their sales funnel and thought that my blog readers might learn a valuable lesson for their businesses.

First, a side note: Charities do have sales funnels; the “sale” is when you donate money or sponsor a child. Non-profit sales funnels operate exactly the same way that for-profit sales funnels operate.

The rep immediately assured me that he did not want any money. (That got my attention because it was exactly the opposite of what I was expecting). Instead of collecting money, he had a collection of photos of needy children and what he wanted to do was leave one of the photos with my family over the holidays and then someone would call us in January to see if we were interested in sponsoring the child.

People love to own things but they don’t like the transfer of money. Or, in the case of non-profits, people love to help others but they don’t like the transfer of money. In short, people don’t want to part with their cash. But with this sales funnel, people don’t have to part with their cash. (Not yet, at least).

Not only that, but people don’t want to take a big step.during a transaction. Big steps mean change and people generally don’t like the discomfort of change. But with this sales funnel, there was no big step, only the seemingly innocent photo leave-behind of a needy child.

What this organization is doing is playing into people’s natural tendency to say “I’ll think about it” when confronted at their door. But the genius of this sales funnel is: The customer doesn’t have to commit to anything, they don’t have to pay for anything, they don’t have to make any major changes in their lives. They only have to pick a card and say the one thing that they already wanted to say anyway: “let me think about it”.

The result? This organization gets pictures of needy children into homes over the holidays. Most people won’t throw them out (at least, not immediately). They’ll see the picture of the child over the holiday season, the picture will be diametrically opposed to the enjoyment and relative luxury of their own family holidays, and they’ll be more likely to support the child when they get a call in the New Year.

Sure, not everyone will sponsor a child. But this is a great way to get more people to sponsor a child.

There are three lessons here:

First, minimize the “pain” of transacting money. This non-profit basically said “you have until to January to decide”. For your business, this might mean moving your paygate to a different location in your sales funnel. Or it might mean changing how you define ownership of the product or service you’re selling (i.e. changing to a lease-to-own model rather than a buy-outright model). There are several things you can do to raise the sense of ownership while you reduce the need to pay.

Second, make the steps in the customer conversion very, very easy to take. This non-profit didn’t make the conversation about supporting a child but rather about choosing a photo. For your business, this means changing the transaction into smaller steps that are far more palatable for the customer.

Third, work with your customers and their natural tendencies. This non-profit knew its prospects would say “let me think about it”… which is exactly the answer they were looking for. For your business, this might mean something similar: Find out what your prospects want to say and work with that. Find out your prospects’ biggest objection or delaying tactic, and turn that into a step in the sales process.